393.11/808: Telegram

The Minister in China (MacMurray) to the Secretary of State

359. My 325, May 8, 9 p.m. Following telegram has been sent to the American consul general at Shanghai:

“Urgent, 106, May 16, 7 p.m. Please prepare the following letter to ‘His Excellency, General Hwang Fu, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nanking,’ and take the speediest available means to get it to him:

‘Confidential. My dear General Hwang: The American Minister has telegraphed requesting me to place in your hands the following message as from him:

“In reply to a telegram I addressed to Your Excellency on May 7th expressing anxiety as to the protection of American citizens at Tsinanfu, you were good enough to assure me by a telegram of May 8th that I need feel no anxiety. It has, however, been the regular policy of the American Government to advise its nationals to withdraw from zones of actual hostilities where they may be exposed either to the accidents, civil warfare, or to the possibility of attack by irresponsible soldiery, and to retire to places where they may be protected.

That such advice has been warranted is evidenced by the fact that Dr. Seymour has been murdered in cold blood at Tsining under circumstances of which I have already had occasion to advise you;47 one Mrs. Hobart has been killed at Taian by rifle fire under circumstances not thus far known;48 and one Dr, Osborn was abducted and for several weeks held under arrest for no known reason.49

At the present juncture, the course of military events threatens to involve this part of China, and I take this occasion to invite your attention to the fact that the central point of refuge for several thousand American citizens is at Tientsin, where the American Government has stationed defensive forces charged with the responsibility of protecting its citizens.

As you no doubt realize the commingling of all nationalities within the safety zone established at Tientsin creates a situation in which any threat to the security of that area involves a threat to all within it, indiscriminately. American interests and the American forces have, as a matter of practical necessity, to share with the forces of other powers the responsibilities of assuring the inviolability of the protected area.

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You may of course rely upon it that the American forces will seek scrupulously to avoid embarrassing any Chinese military operations, and that the earnest hope of our military commander is to insure the complete safety of our nationals without resort to arms. I should, however, be less frank than I believe the occasion demands, if I were not to make clear that lawless, uncontrolled elements, or armed forces cannot be permitted to come into dangerous contact with our nationals in certain prescribed areas.

It is with a view to obviating the possibility of any collision, that I am impelled, out of abundance of caution, to present for your consideration the delicacy of the situation in this instance in the hope that you may find it possible to insure that only trusted troops and commanders of unquestioned loyalty to China’s welfare may be employed in the event of any operations in, the neighborhood of Tientsin; and further that all commanders be fully informed as to the real nature and object of such protective military measures as it has been deemed necessary for the American forces to adopt in that area.”

I remain, my dear General Hwang, Yours very sincerely.’

Advise by cable immediately when letter has been delivered.

With a view to maintaining an attitude of strict impartiality, I am likewise sending a similar letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs here; in this letter, however, the first two paragraphs of the one to General Hwang have been omitted as inapplicable in the case of the North, the letter to Mr. Lo,50 therefore, beginning with, the phrase ‘at the present juncture.’”

  1. Telegram in four sections.
  2. See pp. 281 ff.
  3. See despatches L. No. 13, May 11 and L. No. 19, May 23, from the consul at Tsinan to the Minister in China, pp. 266 and 268.
  4. See telegrams No. 266, April 25, and No. 362, May 17, from the Minister in China, pp. 260 and 267.
  5. Lo Wen-kan, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Peking Government.